Kapala means skull and bhati means light. So in the breath work known as Kapalabhati or skull-shining breath we are lightening the skull so to speak – cleansing it. This type of breath is used not only for cleansing, but also to give greater energy when you’re feeling tired. It’s a great way to warm up before an asana practice as well. This breath is done my inhaling passively through the nose and then exhaling explosively through the nose.
Here are the steps:
- Start by taking 3 or full full breaths through the nose. Really expand the lungs and the abdomen on the inhalation. It’s helpful to place the hands on the abdomen throughout this breathing exercise so that you can feel the pumping.
- Now inhale a short pull of air through the nose
- Exhale by pushing the air out forcefully by using the abdominal muscles to push the air out
- Your belly should then quickly come back to full as you again sniff in a passive breath
- Pace yourself! This breath can be done quite quickly but when starting out you want to go at a comfortable pace and gradually build the lung capacity to quicken it. You should never feel out of breath or light headed while doing kapalabhati.
- Count out about 20 pumps and then rest for about 10-30 seconds and take another round if it’s feeling comfortable to do so.
- Once you build up the lung capacity and strength you can take up to 100 pumps
This type of pranayama (breath work) sends a lot of oxygen up to the brain in a quick time frame, which is very energizing. If you’re feeling a little wrung out give it a try. It has other benefits too:
- Cleanses lungs and respiratory system
- Strengthens and tones diaphragm and abdominal muscles
- Releases toxins
- Increases oxygen to cells, purifying blood in the process
- Improves digestion
- Energizes and clears mind
- Focuses attention
- Warms body
This video shows this breath technique very well: https://youtu.be/sgtA5tf5Y68
Stay tuned for more on breathing techniques!